Restaurant review: Bar Piquette

This French bistro on Queen West looks as cute as it sounds, with a cozy interior, an impressive list of hard-to-find wines and small plates perfect for grazing.

What's the vibe

Grant van Gameren adds to his successful dining empire (11 and counting) with his latest opening on Queen West – Bar Piquette. A long and narrow footprint, seating just 30 guests at a time, makes for a naturally intimate, cozy experience. With no reservations and small bistro tables, expect a short wait even on weekday evenings. Do yourself a favour and ditch the friend group for a party of two – you’ll get seated way quicker.

While you’re inside, make sure you check out the quirky blowfish lamp above the bar – van Gameren and co-general manager Ellen Shrybman picked it up at an antique shop in Paris while doing research for the bar. The fish has since become the eatery’s mascot, adorning its logo and wine glasses.

What to drink

Deriving its name from a French wine term for a beverage made from grape pomace (grape skins, seeds, pulp and stems), we should expect that Bar Piquette takes its wines seriously. A custom-made, humidity-controlled oak cabinet showcases wines available by the bottle, each accompanied with a neatly handwritten tag. But there’s plenty available by the glass and half-glass, making it easier to tackle more of Piquette’s impressive wine list without losing your mental faculties.

Co-general manager and sommelier Nate Morrell has worked in the industry for over a decade and has a way of making wines approachable for those less familiar with the lingo, introducing each pour with a short history of the winery and characteristics of the grape. Morrell explains that while organic and biodynamic wines are a heavy focus of the wine list, they didn’t want to make it exclusive to these styles and miss out on some excellent, well-made pours that they were eager to showcase. Among our choices for the evening were a mineraly chenin blanc, a fresh rosé and a funky lambrusco, the latter of which is a hard-to-find style of sparkling red wine.

What to eat

The food menu at Piquette focuses on shareable small plates that pair well with wine. Grazers will appreciate the comfortable pace at which the food is served, meaning those with a large appetite shouldn’t arrive starving. We started with a fresh amberjack white fish from New Zealand that has a nice balance of salt and tang. It was followed by our favourite bites of the evening – a pair of toasties topped with a spicy 'nduja sausage spread tempered by a super creamy stracciatella cheese and thin slices of cantaloupe. The mortadella bun was the only dish we had that wasn't easy to split. But we think you’ll thank us for suggesting you order one each after you bite into the pillowy bun stuffed with layers of soft, thin-sliced mortadella.

With no printed menus (they’re written on chalkboards), you can expect food options to rotate based on seasonality and whatever the chefs and charcutier experiment with next. It’s all the more reason for us to make a repeat visit soon.

Dinner and drinks for two; about $120

1084 Queen St. W,